Nasa Inflatable 'Flying Saucer' Parachute, Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, To Be Tested

Landing the Curiosity rover on Mars was probably the most delicate, complex and not to mention impressive things humanity has achieved in recent years - if ever.

But Nasa are not ones to rest on their laurels. Oh no, they're already working out how to land bigger and possibly people-carrying spacecraft on the surface of the red planet.

Next month testing will begin on their 'Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator' (LDSD), an inflatable saucer-shaped delivery system.

While the Curiosity landing involved numerous rockets and sky-trains, Nasa are reverting back to the trusty old parachute method for these new tests.

Really, really big ones.

When deployed the LDSD will be 30.5 metres wide.

The investigators are conducting design verification tests through 2013. The first supersonic flight tests are set for 2014 and 2015.

Once tested, the devices will enable missions that maximise the capability of current launch vehicles, and could be used in Mars missions launching as early as 2018.

Mars Curiosity Mission In Pictures